The US forest Service report Private Forests, Public Benefits: Increased Housing Density and Other Pressures on Private Forest Contributions examines the threat that watersheds throughout the country may experience before the year 2030 due to loss of private forest lands, future housing demands and climate change. This report proposes that the Contoocook River watershed (of which the Warner River watershed is a part) is:
- The most endangered watershed to suffer the most loss of interior forest;
- The second most threatened for loss of private forest acreage and water quality; and
- Ranked ninth nation-wide to experience the most loss of timber volume.
The private and public amenities that our watershed provides, such as clean water, timber, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities – and our local economy that relies so heavily upon these qualities – is clearly at risk unless we take action and develop in a way that balances housing demands with measures that better protect our watershed resources.
Riparian Buffer Protection – is the most effective and economically feasible practice to protect aquatic habitat and water quality. Forested stream buffers can be achieved through voluntary land use practices (such as agricultural and forestry best management practices), town ordinances, state law (i.e. The Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act), deed restriction and conservation easement. Read more on our Habitat Stewardship page here.
Best Management Logging Practices – Forestry practices today should consider our changing climate and the specific vulnerabilities associated with site conditions. Please read on our Habitat Stewardship page here.
Habitat Fragmentation – locate future housing development away from sensitive and high quality habitat to prevent habitat fragmentation.
Avoid Road-Stream Crossings – Poorly sized stream crossings alter the natural sediment transport characteristics of a river or stream, which leads to erosion and excess sediment deposition in the stream channel. The cumulative effect of under sized stream crossings can lead to increased sedimentation and turbidity throughout a watershed during storm events. Road fill from washed out stream crossings during flood events accumulates in the stream channel and buries the natural stream bed substrate. Observations of stream crossings during fish surveys in New Hampshire suggest that there are very few streams that do not show some habitat damage from stream crossings. Read more on our Climate Change page here.
Minimize Water Withdrawal for Irrigation, Public Water Supply or Commercial Use
The coldwater streams most vulnerable to groundwater use are the small, spring-fed streams found scattered throughout southeastern New Hampshire. These streams, which depend entirely on groundwater to maintain consistent flow, support small, isolated populations of brook trout. In most cases, water levels in these streams are not monitored. New groundwater withdrawals are permitted by NHDES with requirements to reduce impacts on local aquatic habitats. Grandfathered withdrawals or the cumulative effects of small water withdrawals may be influencing stream flow in some areas.
Groundwater withdrawals have the potential to alter the hydrology of local rivers and streams. A decrease in the flow of groundwater can also reduce surface flows, dissolved oxygen levels and increase stream water temperatures.
Surface water and groundwater withdrawals for drinking water, irrigation, and other uses can reduce river flows, especially during critical periods of low flow during the summer months. Water level management at dams also affects the streamflow in a watershed. The NHDES Instream Flow Program works to balance water use while maintaining flow for aquatic life. Two pilot studies, one in the Souhegan River and one in the Lamprey River, have been conducted and Water Management Plans have been approved. The lessons learned from these studies and management plans should be expanded into other watersheds throughout New Hampshire. The practices implemented in the Water Management Plans for the Souhegan and Lamprey Rivers should be monitored to ensure that they are achieving the desired level of protection for instream flow. Dam managers should seek to manage water levels so that raising or lowering the water level in a lake or pond does not excessively decrease or increase the stream flow downstream of the dam. Headwater streams are especially vulnerable to water withdrawal and should not be overlooked during the permitting process.